How Life Got Flipped - Turned Upside Down

One of the best things in the world? Fresh Prince of Bel Air. Even better? Getting books in the mail! 

Today I received my pre-ordered copy of Assimilate or Go Home: Notes from a Failed Missionary on Rediscovering Faith by D.L. Mayfield. I am so excited to jump into this collection of essays on how life got flipped, turned upside down. And I'm even more pumped to introduce you to the author in today's interview. Read on, friends!

Q: Can you share how you got involved in refugee communities?

So from a young age, I always wanted to be a missionary in a far-away country, to do good things for God, and change the world. When I was 19 and attending Bible college in Portland, Oregon, I started volunteering with recently arrived Somali Bantu refugees from with the intention to practice my missionary skills on them. 

It quickly became clear that I would not be converting them anytime soon due to language barriers and the extreme challenges they faced when navigating every-day life in America. I got sucked into their community, both because of the magnitude of need they were experiencing, but also because I was entranced by their culture and community and the ways they revealed America to me.

Eventually, because of my years of relationship with them, I began to question the easy narratives I always had about my country, my culture, and my religion. Though I never ended up converting any of my friends, my own relationship with God was revealed to me (and ultimately strengthened).

Q: I'd love to hear some background about the title of the book and what it means to you?

When I first met my refugee friends, it was clear that one thing we had in common was that none us fit into a secular, individualistic Western world. As someone who wanted to be a missionary, I had long struggled with religious fanaticism--desperate to please God and to be of some use in the world. My friends were both ethnic outsiders and also religious outsiders in a country that is kind to neither. 

It seemed like everywhere we went we were being asked to tone it down or change who we fundamentally were in order to fit in--to assimilate or go home. The tragedy for refugees, however, is they are people for whom their home was lost to them, and it will never be recovered. 

From my friendships with refugees, they taught me how to move forward in a world that doesn’t seem to have a place for you, and I will forever be grateful for that.

Q: Your book write up includes the sentence, "The more I failed to communicate the love of God to my refugee friends, the more I experienced it for myself." Can you offer an example of where you saw God's love at work?

Living and working within refugee communities for the past decade has opened my eyes to the realities people on the margins of American culture experience. There is so much pain and suffering in the world, and I have heard so many stories from my friends. 

Eventually, I had to grapple with inequality and injustice and my own privileged place in the world, which brought me into conflict with God. I had to ask all my questions, to get out all of my despair, and I had to fail miserably at the one thing I thought I could do (convert others) in order to get to an authentic place in my relationship with God. 

Ultimately, I realized that there is so much work to be done in the world in order to see the upside-down kingdom come, but it doesn’t make God love you any more. You already are known and seen and loved, just as you are.

Q: We hear talk of the "refugee crisis" and the challenge of immigrants coming to this country. What's one thing you wish people knew about refugees settling in the U.S. for a new life?

Refugees are distinct from immigrants in that they cannot return to their home and their country, no matter how much they would like to. They have been forcibly displaced by trauma and are struggling to come to terms with their new normal. 

While the global refugee crisis can feel overwhelming, I encourage everyone to seek out already resettled refugees in your neighborhood, city, or state. The biggest need refugees have (and honestly, I think this applies for most American families too) is that they are extremely culturally isolated. They need friends! 

Many of my refugee friends and neighbors come from cultures where community and hospitality is the norm, and yet most of them have never been invited inside the home of an American. This is an easy way to make a difference! Contact your local refugee resettlement agency (I recommend World Relief, Catholic Charities, and Lutheran Family Services) and ask for ways you can serve the families on a long-term basis.

So I'm diving into my copy of Assimilate or Go Home. Want to join me? Get yours here!

No comments

Post a Comment

I love to hear from you! Like, seriously. It makes my day. Please feel free to respond, question, or add your perspective. Of course, please keep your words respectful. Thanks for reading and joining in the conversation!

A Life with Subtitles. All rights reserved. © Maira Gall.